Astros 11, Orioles 0

For a change, everything went swimmingly for the Houston
Astros.

Their starting pitcher was sharp, the offense had three home
runs among its 14 hits and the game was essentially decided in
Houston’s favor by the end of the fourth inning.

It all added up to an 11-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on
Wednesday night.

Rookie left-hander Brett Oberholtzer allowed three hits over
seven innings to earn his first major league win and Jason Castro
hit a grand slam to provide the Astros with their most lopsided
victory of the year.

Afterward, manager Bo Porter found himself in the rare position
of categorizing all the highlights from a gem of a game from the
team with the worst record in the majors.

”It all started on the mound with Oberholtzer,” Porter said.
”What a tremendous job. It’s amazing what happens when you throw
strikes and don’t put people on base. He did a great job of
attacking the strike zone.”

Oberholtzer (1-0) was thrust into the starter’s role after Erik
Bedard was scratched with a sore shoulder. Making his fourth
appearance and first start in the big leagues, Oberholtzer struck
out six, walked none and did not let a runner get past first
base.

”Everything was on today, worked good,” he said. ”Whenever
someone calls on me to come in and get outs, that’s what I do –
whether it’s relief or starting.”

Porter said, ”You certainly don’t expect what we ended up
getting, but to his credit he did a tremendous job attacking the
strike zone against a really good hitting lineup.”

Matt Dominguez homered and had a career-high four hits for the
Astros, who built an early 9-0 lead against Miguel Gonzalez
(8-5).

”Offensively, those guys kept a lot of pressure on the other
team and gave us a little cushion,” Porter said.

Hours before the first pitch, the Astros traded right-hander Bud
Norris to the Orioles for outfielder L.J. Hoes and a minor league
prospect. Hoes switched from the Baltimore starting lineup to
batting second for Houston and went 0 for 5.

Norris, the focal point of the trade, will start the deciding
game of the series Thursday night against his former teammates.

This was the second time in three games that the Orioles were
shut out. Before that, they were blanked in three of 105 games.

”We haven’t swung the bats real well as of late,” manager Buck
Showalter acknowledged. ”Kind of collectively. You don’t say
that’s just one of those things that’s going to happen. You want to
shorten it up and get back to what we’re capable of. Tomorrow’s an
opportunity to do that.”

Baltimore finished with seven hits, two apiece in the eighth and
ninth innings.

Gonzalez yielded a career-high nine runs, four earned, in 3 2-3
innings. He has lost two straight decisions for the first time in
34 career starts.

”My bullpen was great. Everything was down, and I thought I was
going to go out there and do pretty well,” the right-hander said.
”The first inning was good, second inning I was just leaving the
ball up, and it just carried on throughout the whole game. It was
just a tough night for me overall.”

Houston took control with a four-run second. After Castro hit a
leadoff double, Brandon Barnes delivered an RBI double and scored
on a single by Dominguez before Robbie Grossman hit a shot onto
Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard.

The Astros tacked on five runs in the fourth, courtesy of a
botched grounder by shortstop J.J. Hardy. The two-out miscue with
the bases loaded allowed a run to score, and Castro followed with
his first career grand slam.

Brett Wallace hit an RBI single in the sixth and Dominguez
homered off Francisco Rodriguez leading off the seventh.

Grossman, Oberholtzer and reliever Chai-Hen Lo, who made his
debut in the eighth inning, all played together in the minors and
are now trying to take their game to the next level.

”I’m happy for Obi, he pitched great. I’m happy for Lo to get
in a game,” Grossman said. ”I started with a lot of these guys in
Triple-A and it’s awesome to see them come up here and have
success.”

NOTES: It was the most lopsided defeat of the season for the
Orioles. … Houston CF Brandon Barnes left with lower back
tightness. … The Orioles put RHP Jason Hammel (strained flexor
muscle) on the 15-day disabled list and activated Steve Pearce from
the DL. … Orioles star Chris Davis extended his club-record run
of games with a strikeout to 24. … Porter said Bedard was
scratched ”to give him a couple extra days of rest.”